Brussels (Brussels Morning) The role of the EU Ombudsman, the Union’s official watchdog, is to be strengthened when it comes to dealing with issues of corruption and maladministration, the Council announced last evening.
The decision received broad support from the European Parliament in a 9 June vote, with 623 votes in favour, 9 against and 61 abstentions.
“It really strengthens my office and I think it acknowledges the force and the work that my office has done over the last 25 years”, the Ombudsman’s chief, Emily O’Reilly, said.
The European Ombudsman was created in 1995 to investigate cases where an EU institution or body allegedly acts in violation of the law or good administrative practices.
O’Reilly said she was particularly “pleased” by with the way in which the decision strengthens the power of the office to initiate investigations.
Given the legal reinforcement, the EU’s watchdog will be allowed to investigate systemic problems in European institutions without having received direct complaints about them.
“The European Ombudsman plays an important part in our EU institutional framework, notably to ensure the trust of our citizens by promoting good administration by our institutions,” Ana Paula Zacarias said on behalf of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council.
Improved legal powers
Essentially, the EU Ombudsman’s new duties will include the right to launch its own inquiries
whenever it finds grounds to do so. The EU’s watchdog will also be able to propose solutions to such
issues as and when an investigation raises them, for example in cases of “repeated, systemic or
particularly serious instances of maladministration”.
Access to documents will also be increased as part of the legal reinforcement. The rules clarify the conditions for accessing documents and for seeking the cooperation of member state authorities and Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.
Candidates wishing to work for the Ombudsman will face increased scrutiny too. A new “cooling off” period is required for eligibility to the Office. Those suffering from harassment and whistleblowing will enjoy increased protection too.
“The Ombudsman can now serve Europeans even better than before. But we have also made institutional history: Parliament exercised its right of initiative and managed to have all institutions on board”, MEP Paulo Rangel (EPP) declared.
The new law will be presented to the Parliament’s President David Sassoli today and will enter into force on July 24.